Just Get Started

small business procrastination

Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.
-Salvador Dali

Being a perfectionist can be dangerous. You're never going to achieve it. Some people do end up achieving greatness along the way to perfection, but more often than not people just don't bother getting started because they know that they'll never do it "perfectly".

This is very true about running a small business. Heck, just getting started in the first place is where most would-be entrepreneurs fall down. How many people tell you about their great idea for a business? How many of them actually do it?

Just get started...

I have read more than my fair share of business books. These 3 words sum up most of what I've read. There's no "perfect business". There's no way of planning out every stage of your entrepreneurial venture. You just need to get off your butt and get started.

I'm writing this in November. In about 6 weeks we'll all be writing down the New Year's resolution that will never happen. Right next to the promises of getting in shape and writing the next great novel lies our friend "I'll start my own business".

Why are you waiting until a specific date? If this is a dream of yours get started tomorrow...or right now. Before you do something drastic let me be clear...I'm not telling you to go quit your job and fulfill your lifelong dream of becoming a professional falconer. You can take things slowly and make this a side project in the beginning.

Maybe start putting money aside for a falcon...and those fancy gloves. Ooh, and those little hats the falcon wears; those are cool. Pick up a book or two on the subject. Search out forums where people are talking about falconry. Join up and start building relationships with other falconers.

Not into falcons? No problem. There are tons of things you can do now in your spare time to get the ball rolling. The point is that you take a step (even a very small step) toward your goal each day. Here are some other things you can do.

  • think of a name for the business
  • buy the domain name and start thinking about how the site will look
  • setup a Twitter account under the new name
  • write 10 blog posts about different aspects of your business

That last one is very important. If you can't write 10 blog posts about your subject right away, you might not be as "into" the business as you think. This dream of yours will be your life for the next __years. If you get bored of the topic before you knock out 10 posts how are you going to get up every morning for years and muster the level of enthusiasm you'll need to make it a success.

I've had so many ideas for businesses over the years. I've even gone as far as buying domain names for a few of them. The only reason they lasted a year is because that's how long until the domain expired.

This in and of itself is another reason to just get started. Maybe the dream job you've always wanted is a complete dud. Isn't it better to discover this while you're doing it on evenings and weekends and still have the safety of a full time job? Instead of taking out loans, calling the local newspaper, and saying "I told you so" to your 3rd grade teacher before embarking on a terrible disaster...you could start, work on, and then kill the business without anyone ever knowing.

If, on the other hand, this side project turns out to be the ultimate combination of all of your true passions...congrats! You can build it up as fast or slow as you want with the safety net of your day job paying the bills while you build your brand. By the time you ditch your old 9-5 you will have a business that has already gone through the initial awkward phase. You'll have made mistakes and learned from them, and developed a loyal following. These are things everyone has to go through, but most people have to do it with no safety net and very little time to experiment.

So, one last time...just get started. If you've been putting this off, go do 1 thing today that moves you closer to your goal. Just one. See how you feel about it tomorrow. If you're still excited, go do another thing, and then another the day after that, and so on, and so on. Pretty soon, instead of having a few more tweets about your dinner or high scores on Threes!, you have the beginnings of a new business.

Of course, at that point you're going to need a bookkeeper. I'd be glad to help you out. (see what I did there?)

Good luck!

Plan ahead for a stress-free holiday season

small business prepare for holidays

I can’t believe it’s almost December. In just over a month retail businesses will be completely swamped...and my business will be a ghost town.

If you are in the world of retail, where everyone pays you before they leave the store...you can safely skip this post. This information is for those of us who provide services and who spend time chasing down payments throughout the year.

This is a very tricky time of year. The holidays usually demand a large monetary sacrifice, so we want to bring in as much money as possible. We also roll into December completely exhausted, and want nothing more than to take some time off.

I made a big mistake for many years. I like to be able to take time off with a clear conscience. That means I like to wrap up as many projects as possible before I go. I also wanted to do a big burst of work so I could send out a few last minute invoices to cover the extra costs. I would give myself a deadline like the 15th. Then, in an unsettling display of mania I would work day and night to get project after project wrapped up. By the time I was clicking send on my invoices, my hands would be gnarled claws, shaking and twitching from the caffeine overdose. It was not a pretty sight, but I got it done!

Guess what happened next? Nothing. And do we know why? Because who pays for invoices a week before Christmas? Nobody, that’s who.

What lessons can you take from my failures?

Know your clients.

If you’re counting on some last minute revenue to help cover your holidays, you need to know if this is possible. If you work with clients who typically pay in Net 30 or Net 45, don’t send out an invoice on December 15th and expect to see any funds before the New Year.

Also, if your bigger clients are taking time off, make sure you wrap things up and invoice them at least a week before they leave. I don’t know your clients, but any mail I get after December 15th that isn’t a package or a Christmas card is getting ignored until after the holidays.

Tackle your receivables.

Take a minute to review your outstanding invoices. This is something you should review on the 1st of every month, but do it as early as possible this time.

Reach out to all your clients with past-due balances right away. If any of them are working with a limited budget, you’re going to want to be the first person they hear from.

Finally, here are two more tips. One for this year, and one for the future.

Relax.

If you’ve done your work and followed up on your receivables...there’s not much more you can do. Make the most with what you’ve got and really enjoy the time off. Running your own business means holidays are rare. If you get a chance to take a few days off this year enjoy every minute of it.

Learn from your mistakes.

Take some time in the New Year to review 2014 thoroughly. As it pertains to this post, review your cash flow for November/December. If possible, pull up similar reports for 2013 and 2012. Are there any obvious patterns? Did cash flow stop on a certain date? Did your clients pay less or slower than usual? Take these facts into consideration when budgeting for the 2015 holiday season.

What about you?

How do you handle the holidays? Do you take time off? Do you have a hard time collecting payments? Let me know in the comments.